I've just recently hit Rear Admiral Upper Half 4 and I feel I'm finally coming to the end of my week long trip leveling up a federation character. I'd like to take this time to share my experiences in the hopes that they will provide constructive feedback for the developers.
The new mission journal definitely streamlines the experience of leveling a character. I'm not lost for direction, I know exactly where I'm going and I can look forward to what missions I'll be jetting off to in the future. However, the gating system on these missions means I can't share any of them with my friends. If one of us gets too far ahead, we have to wait on the others . Very frustrating not being able to share the missions.
The XP pace is very quick through the early levels and it really doesn't slow until you hit the Romulan featured episodes. This is good as it gets a player out to Commander Rank where the game really starts to shine that much quicker. The downside is that in one day I can out level my friends by 10 levels in just a short play session. This, combined with the lack of ability to share higher level missions means that it can be a tad frustrating for others to keep up.
The Duty officer system is probably whre the experience shines the most. You ARE running a ship. You've got no excuse to go out and explore. I can't praise the system enough. Also it has perhaps the most active and openly communicating dev behind it that I've ever seen. I'd love to put Heretic up for promotion but I fear what might happen to the DOFF system if he isn't chained to his desk!
Energy credits need a look at lower levels. It's next to impossible to earn any, let alone gear up your ship. I lived off of whatever terrible drops I could find until about captain where the loot tables seemed to steady out.
Patrol missions feel next to irrelevant. Compared to where the storyline has me at a certain level, the nearest patrol that will grant me a decent reward is on the other side of the quadrant! The rewards feel incredibly dated and pointless. By the time I was Captain, a huge portion of my available log was nothing but these missions. They need some TLC desperately to bring them up to the rest of standards.
I also can't ignore the dilithium economy. Right now I have to say, the economy is in an untestable state. A large portion of the explore dalies do not reward you any ore, and the 8k cap you get a day is hardly enough to arm your ship in one go with the current gear prices. Something has to give. With a full day's dilithium cap I should be at least able to arm my ship with green quality weapons. The same amount of time and effort could have been better spent farming crafting mats and crafting the gear, so there is little argument in my mind at the moment for the state of gear prices.